Friday, 31 May 2013

Inspired by A girl called Jack

I am lucky enough never to have to budget my food expenditure. I buy what I want, I do look at the price of the ingredients, but rarely do I not buy because of the cost. I select special offers and look for the good buys, but eat incredibly well, as you can see from my blog. I have been following the blog written by Jack Monroe recently. This month she has been raising money for Oxfam through her challenge to Live below the line, a global poverty project. She has raised over £3000 so far. For the challenge she spent £5 on food, from which she made 3 meals a day for 7 days. Although that seems unbelievable, she priced all her meals and it is possible. This got me thinking about how much I spent on my food shopping. I totted up my tesco/sainsburys bills from January to April. My god, what scary stuff. Although these bills include alcoholic drinks and other household goods, I am talking in the region of £120 a week.

This coming week I have economised greatly on my weekly shop, I have tried to keep the cost down to a minimum. I have just finished my tesco food shop on line and the bill has come to £41.99, this includes one bottle of white wine. Hopefully I won't need to add to this as I have meal planned for the four of us this week, including packed lunches for the kids. If necessary I'll use ingredients in the freezer and cupboards to add to my shop, but will try not to. I will use up the bits I find in the fridge. As I normally spend around £120 a week, I am donating the difference of £78 to Oxfam. I'll donate the money through Jack Monroes, Live below the line web page. She has experienced poverty in her own life, and I find her a truly inspirational woman.
If anyone fancies joining me in doing the same in the following weeks I will post my frugal recipes and perhaps you could donate the difference of your usual weekly shop to your chosen charity.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Delia Smiths Paella

The sun shone the other day, yes really for one day only, and it was warm enough to eat in the garden. Finding chicken thighs and prawns in the freezer gave me the idea to make a delicious paella.  Although I was missing a few ingredients and used some substitutions, this turned out to be a wonderful impromptu meal. There is something about eating outside in the sunshine which makes everything taste so much better. 

Serves 6
350g Paella rice (I used risotto rice)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
12 raw king or tiger prawns (I used a 250g pack of raw king prawns)
8 chicken pieces (I used chicken thighs and cut them into chunks)
110g of chorizo, cut into slices
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped 
1 pepper, chopped into strips
225g ripe red tomatoes, skinned and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped small
A pinch of saffron
1 heaped teaspoon of paprika
¼ level teaspoon of cayenne pepper
a handful of frozen peas
lemons to serve

Once you have peeled, chopped, prepared and assembled everything, heat the oil in the pan over a fairly high heat. Now season the chicken joints, adding 4 of them to the hot oil to sauté on all sides until golden brown, then remove them to a plate and do the same with the other 4 joints.
Next add the onion, pepper and chorizo and fry these over a medium heat for 6-8 minutes, or until they're nicely tinged brown at the edges. Now add the garlic, paprika, cayenne and saffron and cook for another minute, then return the chicken to the pan, followed by the tomatoes, plenty of seasoning and 2 pints (1.2 litres) boiling water. (I used vegetable stock for added flavour)
Next, bring everything up to a gentle simmer, turn the heat down and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. After that, remove the chicken pieces and set them aside, then pour the rice into the centre of the pan. Bring everything back up to the boil, give a final stir and simmer, still uncovered, for about 10 minutes. During that time, shake the pan occasionally and move it around on the hob a little if the hob plate is not as big as the base of the pan.
Next, return the chicken, along with the prawns and peas, to the pan and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked, adding a little more hot liquid if you think it's necessary. Now shake the pan again, making sure the rice is completely immersed. Turn the prawns over halfway through the cooking time – they will turn pink when cooked. The rice at the edges of the pan will take longest to cook, so to test that the paella is ready, take a little of the rice from the edges and check it's cooked through, then remove the pan from the heat and cover with a clean tea cloth for 5 minutes to absorb some of the steam. The paella is now ready – just garnish with the lemon wedges and don't forget to have hot plates ready to serve it on.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Coconut Prawn Curry

This is another wonderful curry from the Hairy Dieters Cookbook. Lighter in calories due to the use of half fat coconut milk. I doubled the recipe for four of us last night, it went down a treat. I used a Patak's mild curry paste and found it had just the right amount of spicincess, but added some chopped red chilli as a garnish. 

Serves 2
254 calories per portion (without rice)

2 tbsp medium curry paste
2 tbsp water
1 medium onion, halved and finely sliced
1 orange or yellow pepper deseeded and cut into roughly 3 cm chunks
1 tbsp mango chutney
3 large ripe tomatoes quartered
200ml half fat coconut milk
2tsp corn flour
200g raw or cooked peeled prawns thawed if frozen
100g baby spinach leaves


Put the curry paste, 1 tbsp of water, onion and pepper in a large non-stick frying pan. Cook over a low heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly until the onion is softened.
Add the mango chutney, tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are soft but still holding shape. Mix the corn flour and 1 tbsp of water to make a smooth paste. Add this to the coconut sauce and cook for 30 seconds or so, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.
Stir in the prawns and spinach leaves and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the prawns are hot and the spinach is softened, stirring regularly. If you're using raw prawns, make sure they are completely pink before serving.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

French style chicken with peas and bacon

This one is for my sister who is always asking for recipes that she can cook on the hob. I think it needed a little extra something, perhaps a sprinkling of tarragon and a squeeze of lemon juice. I found the recipe on the Good Food website the other evening and surprisingly enough had all the ingredients for it. I served it with pasta but new potatoes would go well with it too.

Serves 4
6 rashers smoked streaky bacon , chopped
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch spring onions, roughly chopped
300ml hot chicken stock
250g frozen peas
1 Little Gem lettuce , roughly shredded
2 tbsp crème fraiche

In a large frying pan, dry-fry the bacon over a medium heat for 3 mins until the fat is released and the bacon is golden. Transfer the bacon to a small bowl, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the chicken and brown for 4 mins each side.
Push the chicken to one side of the pan and tip in the garlic and spring onions, cooking for about 30 secs, just until the spring onion stalks are bright green. Pour in the chicken stock, return the bacon to the pan, cover and simmer for 15 mins.
Increase heat under the pan. Tip the peas and lettuce into the sauce and cook for 4 mins, covered, until the peas are tender and the lettuce has just wilted. Check chicken is cooked through. Stir in the crème fraîche just before serving.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Lentil, tomato and spinach soup

This is a vegetarian version of the Lentil and Bacon soup I have posted previously. It is every bit as tasty and full of goodness. I used up the vegetables I had in the fridge today and have enough soup left over for another couple of lunches. I chopped up a lemon to squeeze on top, a little tip I picked up from lunch at a friends the other day.

Serves 4
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 tbsp Olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 litre of vegetable stock 
Approx 300g red lentils (no need to soak)
1, 400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 red chilli, finely sliced (or a pinch of dried red chillies)
A few handfuls of fresh spinach (optional)
1 lemon, cut into small chunks to squeeze on top

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion and chopped chilli until cooked. Add the grated carrot and just lightly fry. Add the lentils and the stock and cook covered for about 20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and at the last minute stir in the spinach until wilted. Season lightly and serve with the lemon juice squeezed on top.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Thai Chicken Bites

Steve insisted on cooking the main course for a meal with friends last night. Well who am I to argue?  So I had the job of finding a starter that would compliment the Beef Massaman Curry. These little chicken bites were perfect. Fresh and zingy, they were light and not too filling, and could be eaten before sitting down to eat at the table. Lemon Posset was a perfect finish to the meal.

Makes 20
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
pinch dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp fish sauce
juice 1 lime
handful each coriander , mint and parsley leaves, chopped, plus extra to serve
4 heads red or green chicory ( I used little gem lettuce)
1 red chilli, sliced, to serve

Chop the chicken thighs into small pieces with a knife until they resemble coarse mince. Heat a wok over a high heat. When smoking hot, add the oil, chicken and shallot. Stir constantly and cook for about 5 mins until the chicken is cooked but not browned. Then stir in 1 tsp water, the dried chilli and fish sauce. Cook for 2 mins more. Remove from the heat, squeeze over the lime juice and leave to cool. Can be made up to 1 day ahead.
To serve, mix the herbs into the chicken mixture. Separate the chicory into individual leaves (you'll need about 20) and arrange on serving plates. Place 1-2 tbsp of the chicken mixture into each leaf and scatter over some extra chopped herbs and sliced fresh chillies.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger from Jack Monroe

My mum sent me an article the other day about a single mother who feeds herself and her son for around £10 a week. She has a blog, where amongst other things she writes the recipes for the thrifty and nutritious food that she cooks for herself. She has just signed a book deal with Penguin as a result of these frugal recipes. Last night she won the Judges Award at the Fortnum and Mason food awards,"made at their discretion in recognition of a piece of work, an individual or a campaign thought to have inspired people to enjoy, explore and experiment with food and drink". She sounds like a very inspirational lady who has been living on the poverty line and I think her blog will make interesting reading. I made these burgers from her blog tonight, not because I am economising on food all of a sudden, but because I thought they sounded lovely. I was not disappointed. I didn't make them for the children as I didn't expect they would be to their taste, but I might make them again and try them with them. The lady in question Jack Monroe costs them at 9p per portion, that's pretty good going if you were watching the pennies, for something that tastes so good. I'll have to try a few more of her recipes. The blog is called A Girl Called Jack, take a look. The following link will take you to the recipe for the burgers. Carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Hairy Dieters Chilli Salad Bowl

You will need a bit of time to prepare this meal. There is nothing difficult about it just a fair amount of chopping and time to make the tortillas into a bowl shape (and not forget about them in the oven and wander off). The kids seem to like meals where they are given a myriad of ingredients to choose from. Sometimes they eat things they wouldn't normally choose, just for the sake of piling it all on. The recipe was from the Hairy Dieters Cook Book, that book has been a brilliant buy.

Serves 4
300g lean minced beef (less than 10% fat)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp hot chilli powder
2 tbsp tomato puree
½ tsp caster sugar
300ml beef stock, made with 1 beef stock cube
4 large flour tortillas
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 romaine lettuce or 3 baby gem lettuces, leaves thickly shredded
3 ripe vine tomatoes, sliced
15cm piece cucumber, sliced
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
½ lime, juice only
40g mature cheddar
4 tbsp half-fat creme fraiche
4 tbsp fresh tomato salsa sauce
flaked sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Put the minced beef, onion and garlic in a medium non-stick saucepan and cook over a high heat for five minutes, stirring with two wooden spoons to break up any clumps of meat. Stir in the cumin, coriander and chilli and cook for two minutes more, stirring constantly. Add the tomato purée, sugar and beef stock and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and leave to simmer gently over a low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and stir the chilli mixture occasionally.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the tortilla bowls. Preheat the oven to 180C. Take a sheet of foil about 1 metre/40in long and scrunch it up into a ball about 10cm/4in in diameter. Place it in the centre of a large baking sheet.
Take a tortilla and brush the centre on one side with a little of the oil – this will help prevent it sticking to the foil. Drape the tortilla over the ball of foil, oil-side down, pinching and loosely pleating it to create a bowl shape. Bake for five minutes until the bowl shape is set and the tortilla is lightly crisped.
Take the tortilla out of the oven and carefully remove it from the foil – it should be just cool enough to handle. Place the tortilla on an upturned tumbler and press to create a flat base on which to turn the tortilla once cold. The tortilla should still be warm enough to mould to the shape of the glass. Leave to cool while you make the next bowl in the same way. Put each upturned tortilla on a plate as soon as it is ready.
Remove the lid from the pan of beef and turn the heat up high. Cook for a further 4–5 minutes, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the beef is looking fairly dry. Take the pan off the heat.
Toss the lettuce with the tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions and lime juice. Divide the salad between the tortilla bowls and season with black pepper, then top with the hot mince. Coarsely grate some cheddar over each serving and add some crème fraîche and salsa. Tuck in while the beef is warm.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Warm Chicken salad

Thank goodness I did make the most of the few days of sunshine we had. This week the heating and cardigan is back on. I made this salad for lunch on one of the warm days we were lucky enough to have recently. Using a couple of chicken thighs coated in HP BBQ sauce, the classic woodsmoke flavour variety. I fried them in hot oil until cooked through then cut them into slices. I added these chicken pieces to the assortment of salad I happened to have in the fridge. Very nice indeed for a quick and easy lunch. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Hairy Bikers Spanish Style Chicken Bake

When the sun shines I want food with Mediterranean flavours, and this dish is full of them. I have posted a very similar recipe in the past but this was a new version to me from the Hairy Dieters Cookbook. All that was needed to accompany it was a chunk if warm ciabatta for mopping up the wonderfully flavoured juices. 

Serves 4
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
500g new potatoes, quartered lengthways
8 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
8 medium tomatoes, quartered
75g chorizo (preferably picante)
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
½ tsp dried oregano
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
flaked sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Put the onions, potatoes, garlic and tomatoes in a large roasting tin and season with sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Toss everything together lightly and roast for 20 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, skin the chorizo and cut the meat into thin slices – 5mm is about right. Put the chicken thighs on a board and carefully slash each one 2 or 3 times with a knife. Season all over with black pepper. Mix the paprika and oregano together and set aside.
Take the roasting tin out of the oven, scatter the chorizo over the veg and turn everything a couple of times. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and chorizo and sprinkle with the paprika and oregano. Season with a little salt and return to the oven for 20 minutes.Take the tin out of the oven. Holding one corner carefully with an oven cloth, lift the tin a little so all the juices run to the opposite end, then spoon and drizzle the juices back over the chicken. Tuck the pepper strips loosely around the chicken and vegetables.
Turn the oven up to 220ºC. Put the tin back in the oven for another 20 minutes or until the peppers are just softened and the chicken is golden and crisp. As you eat, squeeze the garlic out of the skins and enjoy the deliciously soft and fragrant flesh.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Non - Alcoholic Orange Crush cocktail

Ok, quick the sun is shining, get yourself in the garden and make yourself one of these delicious mocktails. Rachel made me one the other evening, I was amazed how lovely it was when she said she was mixing milk and orange together. It was almost as good as a glass of Prosecco. 

Serves 1
1 cup of fresh orange juice
¼ cup of milk
1 tbsp of sugar, add more if you want it sweeter
8 ice cubes
a drop of vanilla essence (optional)

Blitz together in smoothie maker or with a hand blender.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Warm new potato salad with bacon and blue cheese

How wonderful it is to feel the warm sunshine on your skin after all this time. My problem is I want to be outside every second the sun shines for fear of only having that one sunny day. This is a nice salad for a warm sunny day, hopefully we'll have at least one over the long weekend. I made it on Sunday for dinner, but it's more suited for a lunch time really. 

Serves 4
500g salad potatoes, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, each sliced into 6 wedges
4 rashers smoked back bacon, trimmed and cut into large pieces
140g mushrooms , sliced
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
100g bag mixed watercress and spinach salad (any salad is fine)
85g creamy blue cheese (I used St Agur)

Heat oven to 200ºC. Place the potatoes in a roasting tin, then rub with 1 tbsp oil and a sprinkling of salt. Roast for 20 mins, then add the onion wedges to the tin, giving everything a good shake. Roast for 20 mins more until the potatoes have turned a deep golden brown and the onions have caramelised and softened. Leave to cool slightly.
Heat a non-stick frying pan. Dry-fry the bacon until crisp. Add the sliced mushrooms, then fry for 5 mins more until they have softened.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Whisk the mustard, vinegar and remaining 1 tbsp oil with a splash of water. Place potatoes, onions, bacon and mushrooms in a large bowl with the salad leaves, pour over the dressing, then toss well. Divide between 4 plates, then crumble over the blue cheese.